The applause for our speaker at Christ Church this month (May) could be heard across the road at Beales! We were treated to a talk by exceptional violinist Winifred Conway, who launched her spot with the ‘Londonderry Aire’, or ‘Danny Boy’ as it is more commonly known. It was expertly played in two different keys.
Winifred took up the instrument aged just five. She explained how difficult the violin is to play and how slow gentle pieces are actually more difficult than faster music.
The violin has been her life, from playing in orchestras to teaching and she was able to recount many entertaining stories.
Winfred also shared the fascinating history of the violin which, in its current form, was designed in the 1500s by the Amati Family from Cremona, Italy. Antonio Stradivari (1644 to 1737) was arguably the most famous maker in what was considered the Golden Age of the violin. Based on the female form with, a neck and belly, it was thought of as a most sensuous instrument and suitable only for men to play. The violin was considered inappropriate for ladies to play; a keyboard, harpsichord and later the piano being far more more suitable and less energetic.
Of the 1,100 Stradivarius Violins Antonio made, 650 instruments still exist and are much sought after, as an investment as much as to play. All Stradivarius violins have been given names, some after their owners and some after mythical princes. Selling prices have ricocheted – £300,000 in 1995, £947,000 in 1998; £3.5m in 2005. One example, bought for £80,000 in 1971, recently sold for a staggering £15m!
A ‘Strad’ was recently being played at the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra. During rehearsals a builder working on the roof dropped his hammer into the Orchestra; the Conductor was much more concerned about the violin’s welfare than the poor musicians beneath.
Winifred said the best violins were now made in Worksop. At a blind testing by expert violinists, of modern violins compared against Stradivarius instruments the majority preferred the sound of the modern violin.
Her entertaining talk was interspersed with Vivaldi and ended with a delightful medley of well known ‘Fiddling tunes’ as she called them She then rounded it off with the Sailors Hornpipe.
What a performance!
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